Page images

soil of Manila be defiled by the enemy, notwithstanding that from the first it was apparent that their armored ships and powerful guns were invulnerable to any effort at our command.

The walls of the public square, the towers of the church, the upper stories of houses and every place that commanded a view of the bay was thronged by citizens whose duties as regulars or volunteers did not assign them to posts within the city or on the decks of our ships. A11 were eager to observe the least detail of the enemy's vessels, which in perfect line of battle advanced toward Cavite, parallel to the Manila shore, as if steaming out of the harbor. Shots from the batteries and plaza produced no impression on the cruisers. The spectators on the shore, with and without glasses continued to scan the advancing enemy; they may have been brave, but had no occasion to prove it since the range of their guns and the deficiencies of our artillery enabled them to do us all the harm they wished with impunity.

Those who comprehended the undisturbed movements of the enemy, seemingly so inoffensive, were filled with rage and desperation, realizing that there was no remedy, and only a choice between honorable death or remaining in impassive cowardice. A soldier of the first battalion of sharpshooters who saw a squadron so far out of range of our batteries, said, glancing up to heaven, “ If Holy Mary would only transform that water into land then the Yankees would see how we could fight;' and a Malay squatting near by exclaimed, “Let them land and we will crush them under heel.” Meanwhile the enemy proceeded with speed and safety in perfect formation toward Cavite with a decision born of security. At about 4:15 A. M. absolute silence reigned. All was ready. Ideas of death and danger vanished at approach of conflict, and the battle flags waved proudly from the masts of the national vessels. Majestically (for why should we not admit it), and in perfect order of battle the nine Yankee vessels bore down on our line. The Olympia Aying the Admiral's flag led the way to Cavite at full speed and behind her defiled the other vessels. As the enemy's squadron approached Cavite the crew of the mail steamer Isla de Mindanao heard on board the Spanish vessels the order to clear ship for action, and the three cheers for the king, for the queen and for Spain, and responded with frantic enthusiasm.

At 5:00 A. M. the Olympia opened fire, which was instantly replied to by the battery mounted on the angle of the works of the ports, and pursued her way to Cavite, pointing her armored prow at the Christina and the Castilla, and opening a murderous fire upon both vessels. This was followed by the broadsides of the six vessels that accompanied her. The Baltimore's fire took particular effect upon our


EF ships, and this cannonade continued until 7:45 A. M. At this time we saw the Austria advance against her enemies with the intention of boarding the Olympia and if a tremendous volley had not checked her career of vengeance perhaps both vessels would now be at the bottom of the bay.

The captain of the Christina seeing that the efforts of his consort had failed, started full speed ahead to within two hundred meters of the Olympia, intending to engage her at close quarters. A hail of grape-shot swept the deck and shelters, filling the ship with dead and wounded. Heroes and martyrs that the motherland will never forget as long as she exists! A thick column of smoke burst out of the forward store-room of the Christina indicating that an incendiary projectile, of the kind prohibited by divine and human laws, had taken effect in the cruiser. Without ceasing her fire she retired toward the shore and was scuttled. The indignation of the sailors of the Christina was raised to the highest pitch at seeing the Castilla on fire from the same incendiary causes.


Our principal vessels were now out of the combat, and as several of the Yankees were badly injured by our vessels and batteries, they withdrew toward Mariveles, ceased firing, and occupied themselves in repairing damages until ten o'clock, when they commenced their second attack, which was to complete their work of destruction. In the second combat the fire of the arsenal was silenced and the cannonade continued upon our ships that were burning in all directions. A gunboat that seemed to have no more daring object than the destruction of the Isla de Mindanao detached herself from the enemy's squadrons and riddled the vessel with balls.

The Spanish vessels that had not succumbed to the flames or the shots of the enemy were run aground, as they could not be disposed of in any other way. This was the last stroke. We could do no more. The combat at Cavite was ended and our last vessel went down Aying her colors.

It is impossible to picture the bloody scene presented by the waters of Cavite on that Sabbath morning. We will not attempt a description that would be weak and imperfect and unworthy of the heroic deeds that should be perpetuated in the pages of history. To mention those who distinguished themselves in this combat would be to transcribe the names of the crews from captain to cabin boy. For them our words of praise, for them our congratulations, for the living our laurels, for the dead our prayers, for all our deepest gratitude.

For more than an hour and a half cannonading had continued, keeping in suspense the hopes of those on the opposite shore of the bay, who with their hearts took part in this unequal struggle, in which, as ever, the Spanish sailors went down with their ships rather than strike their colors. Anxiously we asked, “ What is going on at Cavite?" Froin Manila we could see by the aid of glasses the two plus encore

and squadrons almost con

THREE OF THE SUNKEN SPANISH SHIPS. founded and enveloped in clouds of smoke. Owing to the inferiority of our batteries it was evident that the enemy was triumphant, and, secure in his armored strength, he was a mere machine requiring only motive power to keep in action his destructive agencies. Only the cheers of our intrepid boarders and the glitter of their cutlasses could have checked this automatic confidence, but alas! we could not reach them. Who can describe the heroic acts, the prowess, the deeds of valor performed by the sailors of our squadron as rage animated them ? All who were beneath the folds of the banner of Spain did their duty as becomes the chosen sons of the fatherland. They slacked not their fire nor yielded to superior force, and preferred to perish with their ships rather than live with them in the hands of the enemy.

DISPUTED POINTS. Since the battle of Manila Bay or Cavite, as it is sometimes called, several questions have been disputed. The first point about which discussion has been raised is which entrance to Manila harbor the ships entered. Some said that it was by way of the Boca Chica or “ little mouth,” others that it was by way of the Boca Grande or “great mouth." This question is settled by the description given by the Lieutenant-Commander of the Olympia in the earlier part of this chapter, viz., that it was by way of the Boca Grande.


The second point at issue was the reason for the withdrawal of the American fleet between the first and second fight. Some maintained that it was for the purpose of giving the men their breakfast. Others assert that it was in order to count the ammunition, which, it was feared, was running short.

To settle these points beyond all dispute and also to make this book an absolutely correct history, the writer of this chapter visited Admiral Dewey on the Olympia on May 15, 1899. The Admiral was most courteous and obliging in the matter, and put at our disposal the best sources of information. He said, “there was talk of a lack of ammunition.” Referring to the article of Mr. Joseph L. Stickney in Harper's Monthly for February, 1899, Admiral Dewey said that the account therein given was accurate as to its details of the withdrawal of the fleet. We quote Mr. Stickney's language:

It has always been assumed in the United States that, from start to finish, there was nothing felt on our side except a buoyant certainty of victory. It will do no harm now to tell the real facts.

It will be remembered that the battle began at six minutes past five o'clock on the morning of May 1st; that Commodore (now Rear-Admiral) Dewey led the line of American war-ships into action in his flagship Olympia ; that after a fierce fight, lasting two hours and a half, the attacking feet retired from the battle into the center of Manila Bay, and did not renew the attack until nearly four hours later.

When we hauled off from the fighting line, at 7:36 o'clock, the situation had become apparently serious for Commodore Dewey. We had been fighting a determined and courageous enemy for more than two hours without having noticeably diminished the volume of his fire. It is true, at least three of his ships had broken into fames, but so had one of ours—the Boston. These fires had all been put out without apparent injury to the ships. Generally speaking, nothing of great importance had occurred to show that we had seriously injured any Spanish vessel. They were all steaming about in the bight back of Sangley Point, or in Bakor Bay, as actively as when we first sighted them in the early dawn. So far, therefore, we could see nothing indicating that the enemy was less able to defend his position than he had been at the beginning.

On the other hand, our condition was greatly altered for the worse. There remained in the magazines of the Olympia only eighty-five rounds of five-inch ammunition, and though the stock of eight-inch charges was not proportionately depleted, it was reduced enough to make the continuance of the battle for another two hours impossible. When it is remembered that Commodore Dewey was more than 7000 miles from a home port, and that under the most favorable conditions a supply of ammunition could not be obtained in less than a month, the outlook was far from being satisfactory. The Commodore knew that the Spaniards had just received an ample supply of ammunition in the transport Mindanao, so that there was no hope of exhausting their fighting power by an action lasting twice as long. If we should run short of powder and shell, we might become the hunted instead of the hunters.

I do not exaggerate in the least when I say that, as we hauled off into the bay, the gloom on the bridge of the Olympia was thicker than a London fog in November. Neither Commodore Dewey nor any of the staff believed that the Spanish ships had been sufficiently injured by our fire to prevent them from renewing the battle quite as furiously as they had previously fought. Indeed, we had all been distinctly



[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]


[blocks in formation]
[blocks in formation]


Protected Cruiser .. Baltimore..

Protected Cruiser ..... Boston ......

Par. Protected Cruiser Raleigh

Protected Cruiser Concord .....

Gunboat ...... Petrel

Gunboat........ McCulloch (not in action).. Revenue Cutter ..........

Four 8-in., ten 5-in., 24 R. F...
Four 8-in., six 6-in., 10 R. F...
Two 8-in., six 6-in., 10 R. F ...
One 6-in., ten 5-in., 14 R. F...
Six 6-in., 9R, F ,..
Four 6-in., 7 R. F...
Four 4-in ...........

272 295 150 100 130

1892 1888 1881 1892 1891 1888 1888



352 349 159


[blocks in formation]

Six 6.2-in., two 2.7-in., 13 R. F. Four 5.9, two 4.7, two 3.4, 1

two 2.9, 12 R. F ..... Four 4.7, 5 R. F Four 4.7, two 2.7, 21 R. F ..... Six 4.7.8 R. F .... ... ..... Six 4.7, 8 R. F ... Three 6-in., two 2.7, 2 One 6.2, two 4.7,1 R. F. One 3.5, 1 R. F............

1887 1881 1875 1887 1887 1887 1881 1875 1885

156 156 147

96 115 87

Two torpedo boats and two transports, practically not in action.


* El Correo is mentioned in Admiral Dewey's list of May 4, but is omitted in that given in his despatch of July 9.

disappointed in the results of our fire. Our projectiles seemed to go too high or too lowjust as had been the case with those fired at us by the Spaniards. Several times the Commodore had expressed dissatisfaction with the failure of our gunners to hit the enemy. We had begun the firing at too great a distance, but we had gradually worked in further on each of the turns, until we were within about 2500 yards at the close of the fifth round. At that distance, in a smooth sea, we ought to have made a large percentage of hits; yet, so far as we could judge, we had not sensibly crippled the foe. Consequently Commodore Dewey hauled out into the open bay at the end of the fifth round to take stock of ammunition and devise a new plan of attack.

As I went aft the men asked me what we were hauling off for. They were in a distinctly different humor from that which prevailed on the bridge. They believed that they had done well, and that the other ships had done likewise. The Olympia cheered the Baltimore and the Baltimore returned the cheers with interest. The gun-captains were not at all dissatisfied with the results of their work. Whether they had a better knowledge of the accuracy of their aim than we had on the bridge, or whether they took it for granted that the enemy must have suffered severely after so much fighting. I do not know, but, at any rate, they were eager to go on with the battle, and were confident of victory. I told one of them that we were merely hauling off for breakfast, which statement elicited the appeal to Captain Lamberton, as he came past a moment later.

“For God's sake, captain, don't let us

stop now. To hell with breakfast!”

When I told the Commodore that I

intended to attribute our withdrawal

to the need for breakfast, he inti

mated that it was not a matter of much

importance what reason I gave, SO

long as I did not give the true one.

And so the breakfast episode went to the

world as a plausible excuse for what

seemed like an extraordinary strategic

manoeuver-one which has been the

subject of more comment than almost

any other event during the battle.

Many people have said to me that it

would be a pity to spoil so good a story

by telling the truth; but, as the Commo

dore will be sure to let the cat out of the

bag some day, I may as well let her have

her freedom now. Of course we WALLS OF FORT SAN ANTONIO.

learned the truth about the effect of our fire when we saw, soon afterward, the flames rising from the Reina Christina and the Castilla, and heard the explosion of their ammunition, and the former's magazine. We could not understand why the Castilla did not blow up. She burned fiercely, and was in a bright glow even as late as Monday night, having been on fire since Sunday forenoon. It is probable that her magazine had been flooded before the Spaniards abandoned her, so that no explosion accompanied her destruction. Although built partly of wood, the Castilla was also to a great extent a steel vessel; and when we boarded her, after the flames had left nothing but her bare bones, her sponsons and gun platforms were found to be so littered with pieces of our shells that it was impossible to walk there without displacing some of them. Nothing gave a better idea of the storm of projectiles that must have struck this ship than these heaps of rusty fragments.

THE GERMAN FLEET IN MANILA BAY There is still another matter that has interested the American public very greatly—the actions of the German fleet in Manila Bay. Personally after grave investigation the writer thinks that the Germans have at no time had serious

« PreviousContinue »